Being socially-conscious and environmentally-responsible is often one of the signs of a high-performing company or brand, especially nowadays in a world where consumers show preference towards brands that create a positive social or environmental impact. More and more companies are looking to improve their environmental footprint and therefore a higher amount of green-friendly products are being launched and processes implemented.
If we look at packaging for example, some packaging types claim to be made from renewable sources whereas others can be recycled or are compostable. These claims, of course, are only valid if certain specific conditions are met with regards to the recycling and compostable facilities available in your city or home.
As environmental studies continue to evolve, it is our responsibility as business owners to carry out adequate research and choose the best option for not only our business but also our customers and the environment. Many brands have tried to take shortcuts here and have had to deal with the consequences of being branded as greenwashing. In the social media age, the damage to a brand accused of greenwashing can be incredibly destructive to its credibility and reputation and can take years to undo, if ever.
In summary, CPG around the world are faced with a gloomy dilema. Either invest time, reduce margins and risk your environmental-friendly initiative being targeted as greenwashing or… continue to follow the status quo. And there you have it: inertia.
With the above in mind, we want to share with you an interview with one of INNODELICE’s newest partners, Planeteer, and the environmental movement they are inviting CPG organisations around the world to embark on: Meet IncrEdible Spoon.
INCREDIBLE SPOON is one of those brands that aim to do good through their business success. Led by Dinesh Tadepalli as the brands Co-Founder, INCREDIBLE SPOON looks to be part of a solution to some of our world’s biggest problems surrounding food waste and greenwashing.
We sat down with Dinesh to find out more.
Tell us a little about how your journey began and where the idea for edible spoons came from?
When my daughter was born we realised that there was no point in saving money for our children’s futures if they were not going to have a nature to enjoy like we do now. From that motivation, we brainstormed business ideas that would do good for the planet and IncrEdible Spoon was eventually born.
I chose to focus on climate change because the effects are more immediately felt and seen by the general public and therefore they are more willing and eager to help find solutions for it. I decided to hone in on the plastic side of it and do my part to look for solutions.
Knowing that 50% of all plastic created is for one-time use, when starting out, I used my Paternity leave to take a trip to scout various alternatives to single-use plastic. My trip mostly revolved around small Indian islands that do their best to reduce the plastic pollution and that’s where I met my business partner, who at the time was attempting to make a machine that could produce edible cutlery.
Other companies have attempted this before but they did not have the machinery to do it at scale and so had to complete the process manually and eventually could not fulfil orders. When we started out, we wanted to improve upon this way of working so we decided that we would first build the factory and machines we needed, which took us 1-2 years, and only then start marketing the product which we were able to do in 2019.
Why should companies turn to edible spoons vs other sustainable or biodegradable options on the market and why choose IncrEdible Spoon over other brands?
Most compostable cutlery that currently exists on the market is PLA-based and unless you have good sorting and composting facilities, you won’t be able to compost the cutlery as claimed resulting in a lot of greenwashed confidence, or as I sometimes refer to it ‘false compost confidence’. Many facilities, in fact, still refuse to accept cutlery as they often don’t have the correct machinery to separate the items and this is just one of the reasons why 91% of biodegradable and compostable items still end up in landfills. Cities firstly need to invest in the right infrastructure, and even when that happens, the sorting needs to also be done properly because as good as we have become with recycling, it’s still not perfect and lots of it gets mixed together, which means that you have now wasted time and money on a product that does not end up doing what it is supposed to.
The same goes for wooden alternatives - if you can be sure that the wood comes from secondary materials and not primary, then it can be a good alternative. The main issue we found when looking at this option was that the end-consumer often does not enjoy the taste nor texture of the wood when eating and this can ultimately affect repeat sales due to a poor customer experience.
The only true way for us to solve this issue was to reduce the quantity of materials we discard in the first place and in our case, we realised that we could make an edible solution which does just that. We are saving space in landfills and recycling plants, reducing the amount of single-use plastics, and also adding extra value and nutrients for the end-consumer.
As far as edible cutlery brands go, we believe that we are the most sustainable, eco-friendly, and cost-efficient option out there. We are made from natural ingredients, offer different flavours, and are suitable for vegans so it’s a truly versatile product that is attractive to everyone. The spoon also works with both hot and cold dishes and can last up to 45 minutes in cold dishes e.g. yoghurt and 35 minutes in hot dishes e.g. soup.
Tell us more about the formats and flavours you have available.
We have both savoury (i.e. Oregano Chili, Black Pepper) and sweet (i.e chocolate, vanilla) flavour options available to partners with a shelf-life of between 12-18 months depending on the humidity of the area. There are 6 flavours in total with two shapes: one tablespoon-shaped and the other shaped for desserts and appetizers. When starting out, we were aware of all of the elements we wanted to get right along the way, e.g. making sure it won’t break easily. We completed about 80 trials to get the thickness right as our challenge was to create something durable enough that could be used as a spoon and then be eaten. We began by gathering feedback from focus groups in India and then following in the US. We then tested it in the 3 largest ice cream chains in the US.
We are continuously looking for ways to improve as we grow as well and one aspect we are working on is the taste - we have localised the taste for each market e.g. US consumers prefer a sweeter taste than in other countries so with each market, we are learning and adapting.
What kind of consumers are you targeting and what are you finding their main consumption/usage moments to be?
We have a broad level of interest from different sectors of the industry and we can usually segment our main clients into three main pillars:
B2B: anywhere with a high consumption of single-use plastics, e.g. foodservice clients, catering, takeouts, sports and concert arenas, and ice cream chains (we are already working with 5 of the top 7 chains in the world).
B2B2C: anywhere with single-serve packaging available to the end-consumer e.g retailers (we are currently in TJ Maxx and Marshalls in the US), gyms, salad bowl or yoghurt cup brands etc.
B2C: we operate online from our own website direct-to-consumer and on Amazon. This took us a while to launch as we wanted to make sure our entire offering (from individual wrappers to shipping packaging) was environmentally-friendly and contained no plastic.
The best advantage of edible cutlery is that it ultimately attracts two types of consumers for the businesses that sell it - those who are concerned about the environment and their purchasing choices reflect that are the first. The second are all other consumers who may not care as much about the environment to change their shopping habits but would like to experience the “fun and novelty element” of edible cutlery.
The German and UK markets are two of our highest performing and most-interested markets. In the UK, there was recently a ban on single-use plastics which we believe has caused the high-interest in our product. We expect this ban to follow suit in other countries around the world over the next few years as well.
How has Covid affected business over the past year?
Covid was a gamechanger for us as it provided us with the time and opportunity to move into the B2C segment as the B2B segment became hesitant to introduce new products during a difficult and uncertain time. We were also able to take advantage of the time and create samples of new products in the pipeline which include edible sporks, straws and even edible chopsticks on request from some clients in Japan. We were able to truly realise our scope and potential to innovate and create which has been exciting!
What are your goals looking like for the upcoming months?
We were delighted to have reached one of our initial goals of selling one million spoons since February 2019 which we did just in the US and Canada so we aim to grow even further now. We were also proud to be able to offset the carbon emissions due to freight by planting 4,000 trees in the process and this is something we will look to continue as well.
Another one of our goals is to be able to reduce the cost of our product to make it more achievable for everyone who would like to use and sell it to do so. For smaller chains, the cost is still a challenge and we are working on developing more solutions to combat this. One method we suggest, where possible, is to include the extra cost in the price of the product for the consumer and charge as a topping fee. This has been an excellent strategy for some clients who can make quite large margins. This is a short-term solution we are suggesting however and we are working on bringing the cost down for clients as soon as we can.
What made you join the INNODELICE ecosystem and in what way would you ideally like to work with new partners through INNODELICE?
I invite single-serve brands, scoop shops, and/or retailers to take a look at our product and give it a chance with your consumers. Ice cream is already exciting but we want to make it even more exciting, and planet-friendly in the process. That’s our goal! We don’t want to let our 10 minutes of convenience spoil our nature for hundreds of years. I don’t want to disturb the experience of eating ice cream, I want to make it better by making it more planet-friendly.
We would be delighted to work with any of the INNODELICE partners anywhere in the world. We can make the process as customised as possible for each partner depending on their requirements, but if it’s something we can do from our facilities in India, then we will be happy to meet those for you. Failing that, we can give you alternative solutions for what you need.
How can partners reach you if they would like to work with Incredible Spoon?
Feel free to read more about Incredible Spoon and reach out via INNODELICE here.
Founded by former executives in the Ice Cream industry, INNODELICE aims to create a worldwide ecosystem of solutions within the frozen dessert industry. Thanks to the relationships fostered by INNODELICE, manufacturers, brands, importers, distributors and suppliers can discover, buy and sell solutions to GROW their business. These solutions include co-manufactured and branded products as well as innovative and competitive ingredients, packaging and services. Our collaboration model generates lower costs and fewer risks for our participating partners while optimising their time to market. To learn more about INNODELICE, contact Nicolas MARIE (firstname.lastname@example.org), Andrea MONTREUIL (email@example.com) or visit www.innodelice.com.